Judge declares mistrial in Karen Read murder trial after jury deadlocks on verdict

Karen Read
Karen Read in court in Dedham, Mass., on Monday. (Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe)

A Massachusetts judge declared a mistrial Monday after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous decision in Karen Read’s trial on murder charges.

Prosecutors accused Read, 44, of murdering her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O’Keefe, after a night out drinking in 2022 by intentionally backing over him with her car.

Read’s lawyers claimed that O’Keefe was killed by someone else and that the case against Read was a cover-up by Boston police officers.

A mistrial can be declared for several reasons, including if a jury can’t reach a verdict or a judge finds procedural issues that prevent a defendant from obtaining a fair trial.

Judge Beverly Cannone, who is overseeing Read’s trial, reiterated to the jury on June 28 that a unanimous decision was necessary for any conviction or acquittal. Before the jury told Cannone that it could not reach a consensus on a verdict, it had deliberated for almost a week.

Read was charged with second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a collision that caused injury and death. If convicted, Read could be sentenced to life in prison, with an additional maximum of 20 years for manslaughter and up to 10 years for leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

In response to the mistrial announcement, dozens of Read’s supporters, who have been camped outside the courthouse for weeks and dressed in pink, cheered.

Earlier Monday, the jury wrote a note to Cannone saying, “The divergence in our views are not rooted in a lack of understanding or effort but deeply held convictions that each of us carry, ultimately leading to a point where consensus is unattainable. We recognize the weight of this admission and the implications it holds.”

The prosecutors are now free to retry the case but only within the next year, according to Massachusetts Criminal Procedure.

Read and O’Keefe were out with friends the night of Jan. 28, 2022. Read allegedly dropped O’Keefe off at his friend’s house — another Boston police officer, Brian Albert — in Canton, Mass., for a party a little after midnight.

Early the next morning, O’Keefe was pronounced dead at a hospital with his autopsy listing his cause of death as hypothermia and blunt force trauma.

The prosecution argued that the couple were in a rocky relationship and the two fought before Read dropped O’Keefe off. The prosecution claimed that Read intentionally backed over O’Keefe with her car before driving away, pointing to Read's car’s vehicle data, its broken back taillight and hair found on the bumper as evidence to support this.

The defense argued O’Keefe was beaten up by guests in Albert’s house, thrown outside and positioned in a way to make it look like he’d been hit by Read’s car. The defense claimed Albert’s house was never properly searched for evidence of a fight and O'Keefe's injuries were inconsistent with a car hitting him. The defense said Read was set up, especially in light of texts from Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Proctor that used derogatory language to describe Read to other officers.